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These are our salad days

EAT’S EASY - Ernest Reynoso Gala (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2014 - 12:00am

Worried about your expanding waistline after a season of festivities? Given the trend of healthier lifestyles and conscious dining, more people are focusing on wholesome food that emphasizes health and wellness. Healthy preparation and a balanced diet is key, and consuming the right types of food can be a tasty treat. A common misconception is that healthy menus are bland and boring, but nowadays you can dine on delicious meals without feeling much guilt. As I always say, health matters but so do your taste buds.

Chefs probably have the worst eating habits, proudly cooking masterpieces in the kitchen that combine amazing flavors and wooing guests with culinary creations, but when it comes to feeding our own bodies, we often neglect it and munch on what is convenient or readily available. Long hours and a lack of exercise further contribute to unhealthy habits, thus leading to many chefs encountering illness or battling the bulge later in life. To counteract this effect, one must be conscious of the food you take in and this awareness will lead to a healthier result. Size matters and eating the proper portions or in moderation can help reap those benefits.

When I was young I would often refuse to eat vegetables and fruits. I hated how it was prepared and wouldn’t pay any attention if it was served in front of me. Being young and foolish, I was not aware that eating the proper foods could nourish the body properly. As time passed I soon realized that vegetables and fruits have natural curative powers that heal and enhance your body’s wellness. Soon I incorporated salads into my diet and it has done wonders for my well-being.

The chefs’ encyclopedia Larousse Gastronomique describes the salad as “a dish of raw, cold or warm foods, usually dressed or seasoned, served as an appetizer, side dish or main course.” Often it is combined with green leafy vegetables, meat or seafood, and other ingredients to create one delicious meal. Making your own salad involves your own culinary style, from preparation to combining various textures, colors, and flavors. Adding accompaniments like noodles, wraps and toppings leaves you the chance to express your own signature touch.   

In the United States, famous dressings such as Caesar’s are known to be creamy and rich in character. In France salads are both regional and specialized. The famous nicoise salad — which I know very well as it was one of the dishes I had to prepare in my exam in the prestigious Moulin de Mougins with Alain LLorca — originated from Nice and is roughly translated to “in the style of Nice.” Ingredients include chopped tomatoes sautéed in garlic, olive oil, sliced lemon, anchovies, capers, and black olives with a variety of vegetables that includes French beans and potato. Tuna or other seafood is added for variety.

Lyonnaise, another famous French dressing, combines chopped white onion with butter reduced with white wine and vinegar with demi glace added. This classic recipe originated from the French region of Lyon near the Beaujolais, between the Rhone and Saone Rivers, known for its wine and rich gastronomy.

In Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Thailand, fruits like mangoes and pomelo are added to salad greens, wrapped in rice paper and dipped in fish sauce, known here as patis.

Salad greens like lettuce are a rich source of vitamin C, potassium and can be filling even in small amounts because it is high in fiber. Other greens often used to create a salad are arugula (also known as rocket), Belgian endive, Bibb lettuce, Boston lettuce, chicory, Chinese lettuce, iceberg lettuce, lamb lettuce, loose leaf, romaine lettuce, and watercress.

When using greens, wash well and pat dry with a paper towel or spin in a salad spinner to ensure the dressing will stick to the greens and also ensure it is crisp to the bite.  When oil is added to greens it increases the absorption of carotenoids, which reduces some forms of cancer. Vinegar is added for acidity and contrast in taste. It is important to remember to serve salad dressing separately or you will lose the crispness if you dress your salad in advance. So try out your salad fix and enjoy the abundant benefits that go with it.

Recipe File: SALAD NICOISE

1)  Ingredients: 250 grams green beans, 3 medium potatoes, 12 cherry tomatoes, 1 green pepper, 1/2 cup black olives, 1 can drained anchovy fillets, 1 can tuna flakes, 2 hardboiled eggs, 1 red onion, sliced, 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce, 1/4 cup minced parsley

2)  Procedure: Blanch greens beans in boiling water two minutes. Remove and drain. Add potatoes in boiling water and cook 15 minutes. Remove, drain and cut into wedges about 1/2-inch thick. Chop green peppers into 10 round slices.

3)  Line salad bowl with shredded romaine lettuce. Add tuna chunks at the center of lettuce-lined bowl. Add green beans, potato wedges, cherry tomatoes, and hardboiled egg segments. Top salad with green pepper rings, olives, onion slices, anchovy fillet and chopped parsley. Serve vinaigrette separately.

4)  For the vinaigrette: Mix together 1 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. each McCormick chervil and tarragon, 1/4 tsp. pepper.

DISCOVERY OF THE WEEK

On March 1 and 2, chef Takashi Kawasaki of Hanaichi Japanese Restaurant will be conducting a “Japanese Pastries and Dessert” workshop. Recipes include two types of mochi, Japanese ice cream tempura, Japanese-style donuts, matcha crepe and unbaked cheesecake — 100 percent hands-on. Price is P6,000 with paid reservation given priority. 

Galastars Culinary is located at 179 Shaw Blvd., Pasig City, Metro Manila. For inquires and reservations, call 671-4489 or 98 or 72. Visit www.sylviareynosogala.com or like us on Facebook: Galastars Culinary or Sylvia Reynoso Gala Culinary. 

AS I GALASTARS CULINARY GREENS IN FRANCE IN SOUTHEAST ASIAN IN THE UNITED STATES LETTUCE SALAD
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